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Romancing Cartagena and the Lost City

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Welcome to the country of Colombia. Number of U’s in this word: NONE.

Even in the short amount of time I’ve been here, I have found a lot wrong with Cartagena:

1) It’s not in Canada. (Seeing as I am Canadian.)

This hot, sultry city is charming. However its year-round humidity starts at 90% with minimum temperatures of 30C. But after you get over the fact that you are your own personal sweat lodge, you are quite comfortable walking around the colonial-style architecture of this culturally rich wonder.

Cartagena has an interesting history filled with many hardships. In the 16th century there were numerous pirate attacks made against Cartagena because it was the “storehouse” for gold before it was shipped to Spain. They built walls along the outside of the town as a defence against these attacks.

The biggest battle of all was in 1741, the successful defence made by none other than Spanish officer Blas de Lezo. He had already lost a leg, an arm, and an eye in previous battles. Poor bloke, he was not so good with the ladies. With only 2,500 men in nearly the same shape he was, he somehow triumphed against 25,000 English soldiers and their 186 ships. One might not find him handsome, but he most definitely proved himself to be handy. He lost his other leg and died in this battle, and is now regarded as the savior of Cartagena.

Permission to gloat. I lay on a boat in the sun for five days and didn’t put sunscreen on once, hence I don’t recall the last time I was this tan. Walking down the street, a man literally leapt to his feet and saluted me as I went by. Everyone gets catcalls, but how many times does a girl get that kind of prompt and disciplined attention, with my lack of military attire no less?

I left a towel out one night to dry and it was gone the next morning. I can officially say I’ve been robbed in Colombia.

On September 15, 2003, somewhere near an ancient ruin on a remote jungle-covered mountain in Colombia, eight tourists were kidnapped. After several months they were released unharmed, the kidnapping being the work of the Marxist guerilla army of Colombia. The area is known as Ciudad Perdida, Spanish for the Lost City. Despite this horrible event, the Lost City has become a very popular tourist attraction. To reach the entrance, you must climb up 1,200 stone steps. This is after you cross numerous rivers and hike 26 km of jungle terrain. In 2005, tourist hikes to the Lost City started up again and the area is now actively patrolled by the Colombian army. No further kidnappings have occurred. So if a person is to do the hike they must at least be aware that they are treading on the very same path, going to the exact same area as the people who were abducted. But that was a long time ago. So.

There were initially 13 of us on this trek, and three were Americans. Once they found out I was Canadian, the girl you once knew as Bailey was no more. I was now “Canada” or “America’s Hat,” whichever was preferred at that particular moment. Splendid. It was quite good fun, I enjoy being teased because of my nationality. Deep down we all know it’s because Americans are jealous. Let’s be honest here, no one likes them. Canadians are known for their peacemaking and chipper lightheartedness. What are Americans known for, besides their thirst for power and hunger for war and control over the universe? Nothing.

These Americans did exactly what is typical. They left the group because they were too good to hike with everyone else. Why would you sit back and enjoy a good hike when you so desperately need to prove to everyone that you are better than they are, that you have to be the first one to the top? Day two they had up and left us before dawn.

I would like to say right now that this is all just banter, comedy. All those Americans out there, I swear I only mean…half to 3/4 of what I say. We can still be friends, right?

This left me with the nine others: five English, two Aussies, one Kiwi, a German and a partridge in a pear tree. Except the 60-something German guy reminded me of the grim reaper, floating behind the group in his long hooded coat and ski poles with his incessant stopping to take pictures of ants. I don’t consider myself in any position to make judgements, but I won’t miss the opportunity to say he was a bit odd.

A day in the life of a Lost City hiker is quite simple. Up at the crack of dawn and hike for a few hours. Have lunch. Play cards. Have supper. Play cards. Go to bed and have dreams of hearts and diamonds chasing you. Wake up, repeat. Easy enough.

As a result you get to know your group quite well. I love it, basking in all the different accents. I have to say the English accent is my favourite, their mannerisms as well. It’s not a garbage can it’s a bin, not nine-thirty but half nine, not a bathroom but the toilet, not underwear but knickers. They have slang for things I didn’t know were possible: wanker is my absolute favourite word thus far, and their sensitivity to tea makes me giggle. What I wouldn’t give to be
English.

I did get some battle wounds from the hike. Bug bites. Well, they were bug bites the first two days and then they progressed to the measles and by day three people were looking impressed with how angry the bites looked and how many I had. My legs had became so swollen it was difficult to put my socks on and a little painful to walk. Mom, I bought three bottles of bug repellent because that’s what you’ve always told me to do, and for what? Neither here nor there, I wear my bites with pride because the reactions I’ve gotten from people when they see the hideousness of my legs are worth my insatiable desire to scratch them until they bleed and then amputate.

Speaking of, it’s time for me to go put something on them.

Toodle-oo for now!

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About bskaret

  • sammy

    personal attacks are not allowed except by you in your piece here…I am sorry you hate Americans so much…..I am very happy you did not like Cartagena…..I am sure it was because you are just another cheap Canadian…

  • Bailey

    Why thank you for your comments Sammy, I do appreciate them. I assume you are American? If you are, splendid! If you were reading it properly, you will note first of all that it was “all just banter, comedy.” and I don’t mean in a literal sense what I said about Americans, I quite enjoy them. Secondly, I clearly state that the only thing wrong with Cartagena is that it is not located in my country, Canada. Now, would you be suggesting that I would want a city to be located in my country that I do not like? Hmm…
    I did’t think so.
    I may be a cheap Canadian, but I’m not sure I have patience for people who don’t pay attention to detail!
    Once again, thank you for your feedback, I hope you have a wonderful day!
    Bailey.

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